Down in the notorious 3-1 hole, the LA Clippers head back on the road for a chance to extend their series with the Phoenix Suns Monday night. Read on for our full Western Conference Finals Game 5 preview.
Western Conference Finals Game Information
Where: Phoenix Suns Arena, Phoenix, Arizona
When: 6 p.m. PT
How to Watch: ESPN, KEIB AM 1150, 1330 AM Tu Liga
Projected Starting Lineups:
LA Clippers: Reggie Jackson – Patrick Beverley – Paul George – Terance Mann – Marcus Morris Sr.
Phoenix Suns: Chris Paul – Devin Booker – Mikal Bridges – Jae Crowder – Deandre Ayton
LA Clippers: Serge Ibaka – OUT (Back Surgery), Kawhi Leonard – OUT (Right Knee Sprain), Ivica Zubac – OUT (Right Knee MCL Sprain)
Phoenix Suns: Devin Booker – AVAILABLE (Nasal Fracture), Abdel Nader – PROBABLE (Right Knee Rehab)
The Big Picture
With the dirt ready to be thrown on their championship hopes this season at a moment’s notice, the Clippers have no other option but to dig out of their 3-1 deficit or fail trying. As Clipper Nation knows all too well as anybody in the NBA world, 3-1 leads aren’t insurmountable. And as this year’s Clipper team has shown on multiple occasions this season, adversity can set the stage for something amazing to happen. After suffering their third single-digit loss of the series Saturday night, Reggie Jackson, Terance Mann, Tyronn Lue and Paul George said just about everything you could expect of this “never say die” group. If LAC are truly able to lock in on “taking it one game at a time,” “quarter by quarter,” there’s good reason to believe this team could keep their season alive once again.
Leading off the Clippers’ list of adjustments heading into tonight’s game is figuring out how to play with a better rhythm and pace offensively. A sign of just how much their defense has saved them this series—despite the absences of Kawhi Leonard and Serge Ibaka, as well as Marcus Morris Sr. and Nicolas Batum being hobbled—the Clippers have yet to get blown out despite shooting sub 50% from the field in four contests versus the Suns. LAC have shown no fear of Phoenix and unquestionably have the mental fortitude to bounce back them. However, the series remains to boil down to whether or not the Clippers—without their franchise player and on the league’s largest rest disadvantage—have enough scoring juice when the game is in the balance.
“Yeah, I don’t want to talk about 3-1. I don’t got a lot of good experiences with that.”Chris Paul after Game 4
CP3 and the Suns are on the doorstep of the NBA Finals, back at home. Much like the Clippers experienced firsthand during their storybook series-clinching win over the Utah Jazz, there will be some special energy in the Suns’ arena Monday night with a chance at history on the line. Devin Booker has flourished in these moments so far in his young playoff career. In the 24-year-old’s first two career closeout opportunities this postseason, Booker has totaled 81 points, joining only Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Western Conference Finals Game Notes
- Starting Lineup Shuffle: With Leonard out of the lineup for the Clippers’ seventh straight contest, the focus turns once again to who Lue pencils in for the start of Game 5. Mann got a last-second nod in Game 3 due to the uncertain status of Morris Sr., who then received his usual start in Game 4. Meanwhile, Patrick Beverley and Ivica Zubac should retain their spots as they have looked the best that they have all playoffs. Improving the Clippers’ defensive rating by 23.3 points when he steps on the floor, Big Zu played a career-high 40 minutes Saturday.
Update 1: The Clippers’ updated injury report lists Zubac as questionable to miss his first ever game for LAC with a right knee MCL sprain. Farbod Esnaashari reports that Zu in “pretty sharp pain,” but will “try to give it a go.”
Update 2: Lue says Zubac is out for Game 5, and won’t reveal the starting lineup until tip-off.
- Seizing Fate at the Line: The most accurate free throw shooting team in NBA history this regular season, the Clippers’ uncharacteristic struggles at the line culminated in a woeful 21-for-32 (65.6%) tally Saturday. There is plenty of room for improvement in that department tonight.
- To Live and Die From Three: As much as the Clippers have competed to play the right way game by game, their three-point makes have dropped off as the series has worn on—20 of 47, 13 of 34, 12 of 34 and 5 of 31. While the Suns’ shooting from deep has fortunately been levels worse compared to Dallas and Utah, great 3-point shooting was a core pillar of LAC’s formula all season. In Game 4, the Clippers fell behind in the first half after missing a ton of good looks beyond the arc, and then ran out of gas in crunch time while being unable to get downhill and generate good ball movement. Finding a way to will in triples at their usual clip would give the Clippers some much-needed room to work with down the stretch of this one.
That about wraps it up for our Western Conference Finals Game 5 preview. Feel free to stick around and chat down below as this article’s comment section will serve as our live game thread tonight for Game 5 against the Phoenix Suns. Sign up for a free account and join the conversation!
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